When was the last time Suresh Gopi delivered a solo-hero hit film? The answer to that would be Nadiya Kollappetta Rathri in 2007. There were two notable blockbusters in between, with an ensemble cast in Twenty Twenty (2008) and Christian Brothers (2011), both incidentally directed by Joshiy who delivers once again with Paappan.
Now, Paappan may not score on all parameters. But it works nonetheless as an investigative thriller on the lines of Anjam Pathira and Foresnic with a bit of family drama thrown in the mix. As with many such thrillers that have done well in Malayalam cinema of late, there are some loose ends and there is a constant effort to stay ahead of the viewer which one can always quibble about. But for the average viewer who goes with an open mind, Paappan would surprise you pleasantly, for it well exceeds one’s expectations.
And it should work for the Suresh Gopi fans too with the star back in his element as a veteran cop living with a troubled past and a scar that continues to haunt him physically and emotionally to date. But Suresh Gopi isn’t the central character in the film, that would be Neetha Pillai, in what would be the most honest portrayal of a female top cop in Malayalam cinema to date. Playing Vincy Abraham IPS, daughter of Suresh Gopi’s Abraham Mathew Mathen, Pillai is a perfect fit.
And Joshiy, in his 44th year in the industry as a director, continues to defy conventions and stay ahead of the curve. For someone who started his career with Tiger Salim (1978), when his name was spelt Joshy, the ace director keeps adapting himself to the times over and over again. With Paappan, Joshiy makes a clean investigative thriller and subtle political points are made without making them too apparent. There is a part where Vincy Abraham’s subordinate officer played by Tini Tom refers to an actress as ‘charakku’, a term many middle-aged Malayali uncles use without too much thought being told off with: “Are you a lorry driver to use such language?”, following it up with, “You don’t need to be respectful but please at least don’t be disrespectful to women.”
Perhaps Neetha Pillai landed the film on the basis of her performance in Abrid Shine’s The Kung Fu Master, and she is every bit convincing here. Pillai aside, there is Nyla Usha, Kaniha and Asha Sharath, all getting due prominence. There’s also Gokul Suresh, who plays a supporting role but still adds a bit of real-life father-son dynamics to the screen with Suresh Gopi in their first on-screen collaboration.
The script by RJ Shaan has its moments but could have been tightened up to make it more realistic. By keeping the pace brisk, Paappan keeps the audience hooked on to the screen. In the opening sequence, news channels are shown flashing that a superstar has been killed without any visual evidence, which is implausible, although the investigation part is fairly realistic. Jakes Bejoy’s BGM is good as always, and so is Ajay David Kachappilly’s cinematography.
As with Joshiy’s previous sleeper hit release Porinchu Mariyam Jose (2019), Paappan is likely to become a commercial success and might as well be Suresh Gopi’s first major solo-hit in 15 years. Paappan has been in the making for a while and would have hit theatres sooner but for COVID and Suresh Gopi’s political commitments. With the big-budget Ottakomban and the sequel to Highway (1995) with Jayaraj to follow, the superstar is well and truly back after a long hiatus.
For someone whose initial claim to fame in Malayalam cinema was making big-budget films with ensemble casts in combination with Pappanamcode Lakshmanan to teaming up with Mammootty and Dennis Joseph and later going on to reinvent himself many times over, Paappan should fuel Joshiy to go on for a few more years, making him a one-of-a-kind evergreen director in Mollywood.